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5 Tips for First-Time Managers 


March Madness is alive and well in our household.  We have our brackets filled out and we started cheering for our favorite teams. What is interesting about March Madness is even non-sports enthusiasts become fans during this time. The excitement surrounding these games becomes infectious.


New managers can learn some great tips for managing their younger generation of workers by following the strategies used by top coaches. Let’s address how top coaches recruit and coach their talent.


1.  Selection: How do top coaches select players?  They interview, and watch them play. They do not select solely on height, how they look, or how articulate they were.


This is a good strategy for managers as well. During the interview process, ask for work samples, ask your interviewees to do a small sample project, or ask them how they would approach a project, before they are hired. Remember younger workers have less experience and often need a realistic understanding of the type of work they will have to do at your company.  


In my research I am finding that the younger workers are leaving companies right after being hired because of unclear expectations about the work they were asked to complete. One strategy that seems to be working very well is the small sample project or project outline as part of the selection process before the actual face-to-face interview.   


2. Orientation Before Signing Up: A good orientation program starts during the interview process. Top basketball coaches will inform the player about:  team’s expectations, dress codes, and academic rules. This eliminates surprises after they have been selected for the team.


All too often a manager will hire a new employee without telling them what to expect prior to being hired. For example, the hiring manager should explain production and quality expectations. What it is like to work for him/ her. For example all projects must have a project plan and updates are required by 5pm every Friday. The hiring manager might also give several specific examples of the types of projects the new employees would be working on, the type of customers they would be working with, and if they will be working in a team environment.  


3.  Orientation After Signing Up: Good basketball coaches will have a new player orientation to go over the more elementary things like getting uniforms, lockers, and practice schedules. But an additional orientation on the rules, team conduct, team meetings, academic counselors, tutors, and team curriculum.


In organizations all too often managers expect Human Resources (HR) to provide “orientation” for the new employee. HR is great for providing the elementary elements of the workplace. Good managers will also provide an additional orientation. One strategy that works very well is to assign another employee to mentor the new employee during this awkward time. Helping the new employee learn the unwritten rules, and procedures so the new member will feel part of the team and be more productive quicker.


4.  Practices:  Great coaches have a detailed practice plan. The plan might include practicing lay ups, running drills, play drills, passing pattern drills, weight training, dribbling, free throws etc…. Every aspect of the game is thought through, planned and practiced with the team- over and over. The purpose of the practices is to develop good skill sets.  The coach realizes the player gains confidence, commitment, and good technique through good well thought out practice sessions.


One question:  Why do managers forget this very important aspect of running a good business or department? Employees need the opportunity to practice new skills, and the opportunity to make mistakes. Managers often ignore the plan for employee development. Managers then question why employees lack confidence, commitment, and solid skills in work performance.   A top manager must have a detailed plan for developing employee skills, so workers attain confidence, which leads to commitment, and outstanding performance. 



5. The Game Plan: Top basketball coaches know that the game itself is also planned. Have you ever noticed how coaches will use time outs to redirect the team or to put in a specific play?  The coach is actively involved in the game – even though they stand or sit on the sideline- watching the players play the game.


Why should this be any different in the organization? Managers need to clearly communicate the game plan to all employees. Explaining how the team can create better customer service- sell more products, or work more effectively on a current project.   As I conduct management training  with organizations across the country, I am often told that managers aren’t actively involved – they assign work and are not heard of again till the project is over. This is often referred to as delegate and dump.  Just as the basketball coach has time outs- the manager needs to call status up-date meetings. These status up-date meetings are perfect for re-directing a project or making sure the project is on schedule for the win.     


One Last Word:


Every March there is some underdog team that does really well. The odds were against them. Yet when faced to the test- the team clicks and performs. Just because your business in not a Fortune 10 company does not mean that when you are in competition against one of the top companies your team or company can’t be on the road to the Final Four.  


With good recruiting and a employee coaching plan you can create excitement about your company, raving fans, and start your own March Madness.